With all the hype around advanced technologies like 4G/LTE, wireless customers expect better service quality than what they’ve gotten in the past. While this may be true for most data services, where customers can see faster video downloads, the same cannot be said for voice services. Voice over LTE, or VoLTE, requires more bandwidth than the typical service.  A dropped or delayed packet here and there in a mobile app, message or web browser will go by practically unnoticed, but voice calls require special care to ensure the call doesn’t sound jittery and garbled to the very discerning human ear.   A bit of distortion might be tolerable when using a free OTT service, like Skype or WhatsApp, but when subscribers are paying for service, expectations soar and high quality becomes table-stakes. They can’t simply be ‘as good’ – they need to be better.

Service providers are highly motivated to move voice to LTE for cost savings. This will allow them to shut down outdated 2G systems and reduce expenses in their current 3G networks. They also want to migrate subscribers onto their new VoLTE service and away from OTT apps, but that’s risky when they don’t have a reliable way to measure call quality and understand how it is impacting their customers.  If voice quality is not what it needs to be, service providers must fall back to the older voice services. Until they are confident that VoLTE is ready, they cannot unplug other voice networks.  Without this visibility, carriers are, in effect, flying blind.  With so much at stake, this is simply not an option.

For these reasons, CSPs need powerful monitoring tools that can perform the important task of ensuring reliable VoLTE service to their customers. In fact, at TEOCO we feel there are four critical steps that need to be addressed:

Step 1:  Monitor –  Is every customer receiving excellent call quality all the time?  Is the network performing as expected? Are key performance indicators being met? VoLTE is more demanding than a typical data app because it requires more bandwidth and more Kbps.  Tools are needed that will classify every call and provide automatic troubleshooting – at a per-subscriber level. This allows service providers to constantly monitor every point of service along the way, and track mean opinion scores (MOS) in real time.

Step 2:  Diagnose – If an issue is identified, the next question to answer is, ‘Where is the problem and what is the cause?’ There are many points of potential failure in a VoLTE call. For example, are there network elements that are creating bottlenecks, unable to keep up with capacity? Are there call-handoff issues when moving from the VoLTE network to Wi-Fi? Are there problems with a new handset, or could it be someone else’s network that is causing the problem? Issues can’t be resolved until CSPs understand the root of the problem, but the challenge to-date has been the lack of visibility. Service providers need tools that will allow them to drill-down by any dimension in the network -from the RAN down to the IMS core.

Step 3: Predict – To properly support VoLTE services into the future, CSPs also need to be able to identify trends and predict demand. With a real-time VoLTE analytics tool constantly running and gathering data, CSPs can do things like time-series trending, looking at a whole day of traffic to better understand how, when and where customers are using VoLTE services. With greater insight comes the ability to optimally allocate network resources, plan budgets and create partnerships and services that better address customer needs.

Step 4:  Protect – All IMS networks are at risk for denial of service (DoS) attacks and other types of fraud and abuse, putting VoLTE services at risk as well. In general, DoS attacks aim to prevent a system or a network from efficiently providing its service to legitimate users. These attacks typically come in the form of flooding, which overloads the network with a huge number of SIP messages or incorrect transport protocols, or fuzzing, which sends out large amounts of intentionally malformed messages. The ability to quickly detect these attacks and reroute service is critical for maintaining reliable VoLTE – and overall IMS – operations in an age of increasing network security abuses.

Along with the four steps above, another key challenge is that many of today’s monitoring tools can’t keep pace with the extremely high volumes of data and processing speeds required for VoLTE. Tremendous amounts of data- both quantity and velocity- come from VoLTE applications. Inadequate test solutions will drop critical information, skewing the metrics while misdiagnosing network problems. This can create havoc- wasting valuable time and resources by chasing down problems that don’t even exist.

What if there were one single VoLTE tool that could overcome these issues and manage all four of the steps outlined above:  Monitor, Diagnose, Predict and Protect?  A tool with its own intuitive user interface and a built-in dashboard that provides customized views to address different levels of users, from the C-level exec to the network engineer.

INsync is TEOCO’s answer to the question of how to ensure VoLTE success. With INsync, operators get a complete view into which customers are experiencing issues with VoLTE, and can isolate the root-cause to solve them, while also protecting their network and planning for the future.